Idaho governor activates National Guard to combat surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations


Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) on Tuesday said he would be deploying additional National Guard personnel to assist state hospitals overwhelmed by recent surges in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated communities. 

The move comes just two months after the Republican governor announced a timeline for drawing down the state National Guard’s COVID-19 Task Force as the situation had begun to improve. 

However, Little said Tuesday that “nearly all Idaho hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients,” adding that only four adult ICU beds were currently available in the entire state. 

“We are dangerously close to activating statewide crisis standards of care – a historic step that means Idahoans in need of healthcare could receive a lesser standard of care or may be turned away altogether,” Little said. “ In essence, someone would have to decide who can be treated and who cannot.” 

“This affects all of us, not just patients with COVID-19,” he added. 

As part of the order Tuesday, up to 370 personnel will be deployed across the state, including up to 150 guardsmen to “support short-staffed medical facilities.” 

Additionally, 200 medical and administrative personnel will be made available through a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration, and a 20-person Department of Defense medical response team will be sent to North Idaho, which has reported the lowest vaccination rates in the state. 

As of Tuesday, just 44 percent of Idaho’s total population has received at least one dose, with only 39 percent fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Little said in a statement that Idaho’s healthcare system is “not designed to withstand the prolonged strain caused by an unrestrained global pandemic.” 

“It is simply not sustainable,” he added. “Please choose to receive the vaccine now to support your fellow Idahoans who need you.”